Sky Jumpers
Peggy Eddleman
Random House, 2013

Hot off the press, this debut novel plunges us into a technology-challenged post-WWIII landscape which includes the deadly “Bomb’s Breath,” a ring of pressurized air that will kill anything that breathes it in.

Hope, her friends Brock and Aaren, and Aaren’s little sister Brenna are part of a fairly isolated community known as White Rock. White Rock is located in a crater that was formed by one of the deadly bombs of WWIII. Hope, Aaren, and Brock have figured out how to “sky jump” off a cliff through the Bomb’s Breath (holding their breath) and land on the ground below the toxic air. While this would truly horrify their parents (all of whom have known people who died in the Bomb’s Breath), it becomes the way these children will save their community with danger strikes.

Every year, White Rock sends a troop of volunteer guards down the road to the next settlement (Browning) because it’s fairly protected by the snow and Bomb’s Breath during winter. Bandits roam freely and often attack these small communities, and sometimes the volunteer guards don’t return. This year, however, bandits figure out how to enter White Rock in the winter. They attack, hold the entire town hostage, and are demanding the town’s full supply of their only antibiotic. Hope, Aaren, Brock, and little Brenna manage to escape the large community center and flee to Browning. They must jump through the Bomb’s Breath and struggle against deadly cold, but they do make it. Are they in time to rouse the guards at Browning? The guards can’t go back through the Bomb’s Breath, so how will they rescue White Rock’s citizens? Will Hope’s father, whom the bandits shot, die before she returns?

This is a fun debut and is satisfyingly one novel rather than a giant series. Perhaps there will be more, but it doesn’t need a sequel. Lots of action and bravery will hook young readers. Hope, Brock, Aaren, and Brenna are fairly stock character types for middle grade fiction, but they are unique in their sky jumping. The plot wraps up pretty neatly in the end, but the escaped bandit makes for a nice unresolved element. Tiny sparks of romance will please some middle grade readers, but there is not enough to turn away those who don’t want romance. All in all, Sky Jumpers is a fun read and one I recommend!

Book in ARC form via netgalley and thanks to publisher; cover image from publisher’s website